Friday 10 June 2016

"Peak Green" - Organic food and June in the English Midlands

Peak green in S. Warwickshire
Summer came as a surprise in the West Highlands after a long winter ( and Spring) of storms rain, snow, frost, mud and gloom. Early June was gloriously sunny and hot.

Here in South Warwickshire the countryside has reached "peak green", the greenness is overwhelming like the heat. It's also peak pesticide time.

Hot dry weather means mildew on cereal crops and burgeoning aphid populations have reached their thresholds for action. The sprayers are out because it's windless too and spray drift is minimal. As a student I absorbed an agricultural orthodoxy that high yields were our ultimate goal, pesticides were safe because they were extensively tested and we needed them to feed a fast growing world population. As a farm manager I went on using them for years until cracks began to show in my logic.

Organic enthusiasts were eccentric and unscientific; Britain had never been better fed or more neurotic about what it ate. But: to quote the late Muhammad Ali, If you think the same when you are 50 that you thought when you were 20 you have wasted 30 years".  I was wrong.

Field beans sprayed yesterday in full flower when bees are most active
Two things have convinced me. First Dormouse buys only organic fruit and veg from Riverford Organics, its delivered to the door in re-recyclable / reusable packaging every week. The Riverford stuff is top quality in every way, flavours are better, it's seasonal, only a bit more expensive than the supermarket and it tastes so much better. Spraying  isn't just killing the target species, aphids, it's killing everything else including the ladybirds that eat the aphids and honeybees. That is happening worldwide in all sorts of crops with all kinds on animal life.

Last week driving to Glasgow airport in the small hours, I started with a clean windscreen and it was almost as clean four hours and 180 miles later. There was hardly any "fly squash". Fifty years ago I would have had to clean the windscreen at least once. Even the West Highlands appear to be affected. We can all do something about it if we buy and grow more organic food.

As for "peak green" at the end of June cereals will be yellow, the beans will be slowly turning black all foliage here will have that dusty min-summer look.

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